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NOTE: As with hot rodding, my black and white psyche tends to see motorcycle culture in only two flavors: Those who live and breathe it, and Goldilocks pretenders trying on escape vehicles like trendy shoes. I was delighted to discover a credible gray area in the course of assembling the following feature - an eye opener akin to our post on yarn bombers last summer. Scotty
Everything comes back around, eventually. The above photographs take me back 57 years. My dad was a biker. He and his rowdy pals left me with a negative impression of biker culture vivid enough to last a lifetime. I made a conscious decision to focus solely on four wheeled hot rods and strapped on my motorcycle blinders for good, while still in diapers. That was a long time ago, but now I'm starting to come around, PTSD be damned. My fascination with these machines may be morbid, but remains a fascination nonetheless.
I know little of motorcycles, but I know when I'm being seduced. Certain bikes get an instant hold on me, while many more leave me cold. The grabbers tend to be from the ratty steampunk camp, as illustrated above. I've flirted with several and enjoyed the rush: While serving my country in Kansas (somebody has to guard all those tumbleweeds), I put plenty of miles on the back of my pal Spider Crider's Sportster chopper. And most of my cousins are bikers. One of them (Mike Gosson) is a veteran of the Nitro Harley drag wars. I found the Nitro Harleys particularly easy to fall in lust with. Still, I walked briskly away from each of these infatuations with newfound resolve to dig even deeper into the meat of hot rodding and soak up the juicy atmosphere like a dehydrated tick.
Today, thanks to the miracle of willingness, I'm seeing motorcycles in a new light. Despite my self induced ignorance, the bikes seem to be calling me out in a decidedly come-hither manner. And I'm responding. It's pretty late in the game to be changing my stripes, but I am enjoying the scenery.
LORI BENTLEY LAW'S '36 HARLEY PROJECT
SGE pals Lori Bentley Law and husband Brian are stalwart wrench heads with an admitted bias toward vintage motorcycles, most of them stamped "Made in USA". They recently pulled this '36 Harley Davidson from a multi-year hibernation, after their friend Neil's dad died and left it behind. While Neil's dad was a landspeed racer and all around bike guy, this particular Harley received some "unique" customization before being orphaned.
A few weeks back, we stopped in at Chris' Hot Rodz for a Motor Mouth Radio Hour interview. Proprietor Chris Darland mentioned that he barely has time to build cars anymore, what with all of the Japanese cafe racers he has lined up. As a lifelong proponent of low buck power-to-weight ratio prioritization, these svelte buzzbombs got my attention. The relatively tiny amount of workspace required for these builds was not lost on me, either. "I could do this!" was my typical red flag Scotty reaction.
What I saw in Darland's shop was nothing short of hot rodding pared down to it's essence: Remove weight while simplifying design, employing affordable wrecking yard components to increase performance. I wanted to know more. Darland didn't have time to tutor me, but I knew a guy who might. It turned out, I was right: From here on out, Motormouth Ray has agreed to be our tour guide through the world of current cafe racer trends.
Besides the Bavarian boulevard blasters, I've recently come across cafe racers built from nearly every brand of motorcycle. They all take the treatment rather well. Some examples we found online...
Lest we forget where it all began, with pioneers like...
Vincent Black Shadow
Vincent Black Lightning
In recent years, Buell introduced the mainstream to their commercial cafe racer concept using Harley components (our own Dr. Lockjaw used a Buell as a daily driver for quite a while)...
... and today, even a hog can pull up to a cafe without fear of being dissed.
Repurposing these smog era snoozers and geriatric coughers into attitudinal road rockets just seems the right thing to do. It's the hot rod way. So I'm labeling the cafe racers as bona fide hot rods. Once a fervent global subniche, we're glad to see the cafe racer renaissance is in full swing. Are cafe racers hot rods? Yay or nay? Feel free to leave your two cents in the comments box below.
https://www.createspace.com/4338903 Buy as many as you want - they'll make more.
SQUIRREL AND TOOLBOX